Study: Israelis in NY More Religious than US-Born Jews


new-yorkA recent study released by the UJA-Federation of New York has determined that Israeli Jews living in New York are more religiously engaged than their American counterparts. Professor Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Judith Veinstein conducted the study in order to understand the 41,000 Israeli born Jews living in New York and decide how the UJA-Federation should create programs to support this community.

David Mallach, managing director of UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on the Jewish People, said “This study provides us, for the first time, with solid information on which to undertake programs to respond to the needs of the Israeli-American community. At UJA-Federation of New York, we look forward to responding to this challenge.”The findings are somewhat surprising, considering that in Israel communal institutions are less important in developing a Jewish identity. Israeli children are raised speaking Hebrew, studying Jewish history, and instilled with a Jewish cultural identity separate from religious adherence. Even the most secular Israeli is raised with a strong Jewish identity based around a collective national culture. In the United States, American Jews rely more on formal institutions like shuls and community centers to maintain a connection with their Jewish identity.

The study has determined that Israelis in New York attend shul, volunteer to aid needy Jews, visit Jewish museums and community centers, at a higher rate than American Jews. Israelis are more likely to donate money to Jewish charities despite on average being less affluent. This may be a result of many American philanthropists donating their money to a wider range of charities not targeting specifically Jews.

The study concluded some very interesting statistics about the level of Jewish observance among Israelis living in New York. 61% of Israelis report to light Shabbos candles on Friday nights. During Pesach, 95% of Israelis take part in a Seder. Among Israelis, 87% view Jewish education as being important for their children, and over 71% feel a strong connection to their family heritage through Judaism. Among those polled, 72% claimed to maintain a close connection with Israel.

Divorce rates among Israelis living in New York have been determined to be lower than American Jews. The study showed that 96% of Israelis are married, with 40% having 4-5 family members, and 15% with 6 or more. The unusually large families are due to the high proportion of chareidi Jews among Israelis living in New York.

The study concluded that, “Rather than seeing the high levels of Jewish engagement on the part of New York area Israelis as a reason to move on to other needs, these levels should be seen as reflective of assets worthy of development. The Jewishness of Israelis in New York may not be especially at risk, and certainly not in comparison with other New York-area Jews. The true risk lies in the possible failure to recognize the richness and potential presented by this culturally distinctive and socially connected Jewish subpopulation.”

The UJA-Federation of New York said it will try and utilize this religiously active population of Israelis to promote new programs and get American Jews involved.

{Yair Israel/UJA/Ynet}